My first memory is of exile – a cabin in the the boat that was carrying us away from our home in Northern Ireland. But I was born in N.Ireland only because my family was there temporarily with my father’s job. So when my own family followed the same pattern, moving frequently, following Andrew’s work, it seemed natural. In fact the longest we’ve ever been in one place since we got married was 7 years. It suited me because by the end of the third year in a place I was getting fed up with it and wanting to move on. (This happens to me with writing too. Inspiration seizes me and for a year or two I’m all about boats, or planes, or Jedi knights, or whatever, and people are just starting to associate me with that thing when I start feeling the need to do something else.)
That said, this time things feel different. I’ve fallen into the Fen country as if I belong here and put down roots I didn’t know I had. Contrary to all my expectations, I love the flat lands and the big skies that come down around you on all sides. I love light moving on the water. I love the dances and the pub sessions where everyone’s welcome to do their turn, whether they play well or not. I love the fact that there still is a community here that gets together in pubs and sings.
I went to Ely this morning to post some books for Bookmooch, as our local post office is shut for refurbishment. I was coming home, and all around me the tractors were out in the fields, scrubby after harvest, ploughing them up for winter crops. I never realized before how beautiful a freshly tilled field is. It looks clean, hopeful. And that’s welcome to me at this time of year, when it feels that everything else is grinding to a halt, hunkering down and preparing for the long endurance test of surviving the winter. Freshly tilled fields mean that someone has faith in the future.
That must be why there are so many festivals around Plough Monday, and I’ll dance at the next one with more fervor. I wish I could look at this time of year as harvest time, but for me it’s the beginning of the time of death. It was very good to come home through a landscape that took that feeling and turned it into an act of clearing the ground in hope for something new.